USHRAA Newsletter
March, 2019
​​Issue - 008

InThis Issue

From The Racetrack to the Streets of NYC,
by Monica Bencal​ 
A Roosevelt Tale,
by Bob Marks
Trainer Kenny McPeek Joins WHOA to Support The Horseracing Integrity Act,
by Staci Hancock WHOA
Buchanan continues push to end horse slaughtering in U.S.,
by Ripon Advanced News Service
Status on the Number of U.S. Horses Slaughtered in 2018 and on the 116th Session Bills Reintroduced,
by Susan Arrington 
Time to Address Our Business Model
​by Charles Martino
Pass the SAFE Act, HR 961
by Marty Irby
Harness: Rolling the sport into the future
by Derick Giwner DRF
Horse Racing Bill Filed as Constitutional Amendment, “Rural Georgia Jobs and Growth Act”
by Jessica Szilagyi
Former AHC Employee Pleads Guilty in Theft of $545,594
by USHRAA News
Lawmaker pushes bill to abolish Arizona Racing Commission as Ducey appoints new member
by, Dennis Wagner, Arizona Republic
​Bill to legalize and regulate sports wagering in Kentucky receives hearing
by Joe Sonka
A Grooms Journey, Part VI
by Oscar Belliveau
More News

Louisiana Owner Ruled Ineligible For License After Alleged Anti-Slaughter Policy Violations

Meadowlands purse increases will begin in March

Indiana Bill Would Authorize ‘Biological Sample’ Testing​​

USTA proposed drug changes to be vetted at ARCI meeting

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In My Opinion

From The Racetrack to the Streets of NYC
by Monica Bencal

This month I would like to take a respite from talking about what is wrong in harness racing, and instead, talk about what a small group of people got right in harness racing. This is the story of how a retired racehorse, Genius At Work, ended up as a police horse on the streets of New York City.

As we all know, harness racing is a tough business. There are incredible highs and devastating lows. But when things work out, the joy is unbelievable. That joy is what I felt when Judy Bokman of the Standardbred Retirement (SRF) called to tell me that Genius had been accepted into NYC’s Mounted Patrol Unit. This story however is not only about the joy I felt that day: It is also about how the selfless acts of some key people in Genius’ life made that possible. In order to understand how Genius ended up in a safe and productive second career, you would need to go back a few years when Genius At Work was purchased by Jeff Gural at the Harrisburg sale in 2012.

At the sale, #78 probably caught the attention of Jeff Gural and Bob Bencal not only because of his trotting pedigree, but also because of his name. The term “genius” for years before had been an inside joke among Jeff, Bob and a small group of their friends. The great thing about this particular yearling purchase was that he actually made it to the races! And while according to Bob, Genius could not be considered a “great” racehorse, he was “the kind of horse that any trainer would have been happy to have in his shed row”. That assessment is borne out by Genius’ record. During the 5 years he raced, Genius At Work made it to the winner’s circle 14 times, earned a record of 1.54.4, and amassed winnings of $117,949. More incredibly, he did all of that racing on every size track imaginable. As a 2 and 3 year old, he raced at Goshen and Yonkers which are both ½ mile ovals competing in the NY Sire Stakes. He also raced at Pompano’s 5/8 mile track, Vernon’s 7/8 mile track, and the Meadowlands mile track. He was truly a versatile animal.

Genius’ record as a solid mid-level trotter was not the only thing that made him a favorite of the Bencal Stable. Genius’ gregarious nature and compliant attitude made him a barn favorite with every person visiting the stable. Children could feed him carrots without their parents worrying they would lose a finger, and older children could delight in helping give him a bath. He was the perfect ambassador for Harness Racing.

Fast forward to the summer of 2017 when Genius was 6 years old. That summer, after almost 50 years, Bob decided that it was time for him to stop training racehorses for a living. After consulting with Jeff Gural, his owner for a large majority of those years, they decided that after Genius had finished racing for the year, Bob would retire. When I tell this part of the story, I jokingly say that Genius must have overheard about Bob and Jeff’s plan and decided that he would end things a different way. As it happened, his next race was not one of his better races. The reason for his less than stellar performance became clear the next morning.

Although Genius seemed fine immediately after the race, the next day upon closer examination, a small dime sized bump had appeared just below his hock on his right leg. Thinking this was only superficial bump, but not wanting to take any chances, our vet was consulted. Unfortunately, the prognosis was not good. The suspensory had been strained, and while it had not torn, if he continued to race, he would almost surely suffer from a torn suspensory that could cripple him. The good news is that Genius never did race again so that strained suspensory never did turn into a catastrophic injury, but as Paula Harvey used to say, “Here is the rest of the story”.

Genius’ second career would not have materialized had it not been for a couple of key people, but I think the person that needs to be given most of the credit is Jeff Gural. He was the person who owned him, and it was Jeff that would need to decide what happened to him next. Remember, he had been told that while the horse was not lame, the horse needed to be retired to ensure that he wouldn’t suffer a catastrophic injury in the future. Given the same set of circumstances, I do not know many owners that would not have sent Genius to a sale. Please understand that I am not saying the owners would do this because they are cruel, but most people in a similar circumstance would not have been able to absorb that kind of financial loss. If you asked Jeff, I am sure that he would tell you that this was not the best news he ever received, but he never questioned the need to do the right thing. The discussion of why people and horses are put in this type of precarious position in the harness racing industry is best left for another day and time, but I will be eternally grateful to Jeff for the decision that he made. So in September 2017, there were two retirements: Bob Bencal retired from training horses, and Genius At Work, newly retired from being a racehorse, went to Jeff and Paula’s Gural’s NY breeding farm to await his new career.

Genius At Work with Bob Bencal (2017)

Genius getting a bath

I cannot say that being on a breeding farm would have been Genius’ first choice as a place to go while waiting for the new chapter in his life to begin. Being a good-natured gelding whose job it was to be a companion to rambunctious yearlings and hormonal broodmare is not easy. I am sure there were many days that Genius longed to eat his grain in the peace and solitude of racehorse’s stall instead of being chased away from his feed-tub because one particularly cranky mare thought she needed to eat out of two feed tubs that day. The important thing however was that he was well-fed, well-cared-for, and safe. Now all I had to do was find him a place to go.

Genius’ stay at Allerage Farm was always going to be temporary. He was much too young, and more importantly, much too sound to be a pasture pet for the rest of his life. He needed a job. Unfortunately, finding a job for a retired racehorse is not easy. I was determined though, and so my quest to find him a new home and a second career began almost immediately after we brought him to the farm. By March 2018 (7 months after Genius arrived at Jeff and Paula’s Allerage Farm), I was actually starting to worry that I would not be able to find him a new home. Most of the rescue agencies listed on the USTA’s website did not have an opening  and adopting him out privately was also proving difficult. I had many offers to “take him off my hands” but once potential adopters learned that Genius was now legally registered as a pleasure horse and could no longer be raced, their offers were rescinded pretty quickly.

Thankfully, one day when I was talking to Fred Hudson about something else, I casually mentioned that I was having trouble finding Genius a new home. Unbeknownst to me, after getting off the phone with me, Fred called Judy Bokman of the SRF and told her of my plight. As I said earlier, I had contacted most of the horse rescue agencies listed on the USTA’s website with no success. I specifically did not reach out to the SRF not because I did not know about them. I know them very well and they do a great job, but I also know that their task is monumental. They are one of the few Standardbred rescues that consistently step up to the plate and offer horses in desperate situation a lifeline. To say that they are overburdened is an understatement. I certainly did did not want to add to that burden.

Thankfully Judy did not see it that way. All she saw was a horse that needed a new home. Within one week of calling me, Genius’ paperwork was completed, and he made the journey from upstate New York to New Jersey. I do not pretend to know all that went into finding Genius a great new home and second career as a New York City police horse, but what I do know is that without the dedicated staff at SRF, and specifically without Judy Bokman’s effort, a new beginning for Genius would not have been possible. What I find most amazing is that, when Judy called me with the good news, she was as excited for Genius as I was. I thought that was incredible. I had become discouraged after only 6 months of trying to find a home for one retired racehorse. Judy must have had endured those same frustrations countless times before, and still somehow, for over 30 years, she, Paula Campbell and the entire staff at SRF continue their mission of finding safe homes for retired racehorses.

While I am truly grateful that Genius At Work has found his safe haven, that is not true for many standardbreds. And as the SRF states on their website “Although horseracing is a multi-billion dollar business, the Standardbred racing industry has made no provisions to support these grand animals when their racing careers come to an end. We as industry need to change that.

Genius at Bencal Stable

Comments from our readers;

Ann Hennessy Love this!!!!!

Lisa Marie Palmiter Great story Monica, I'm so glad he got a great new job and can continue to bring smiles to many more horse lovers.

Marcia A Hamilton Excellent writing, Monica about this fine horse. I'm so happy that he has a new job and is so appreciated.

​James Champion Beautiful thanks for sharing. Fantastic story awesome horse thanks Monica


Moira Sullivan Fanning So happy for Genius!! they are just the best horses. I am always happy when a standard bred lands with the police because they will take excellent care of them till the end of their lives. And the horses do a great job in helping the police do their jobs. Win-Win!!

Cheri Collison Great story
Lora Patton What a wonderful article. So happy for him he was a good boy. Wish they all could be that fortunate.

Briana Ross Rear article Monica!

Bob Marks Great stuff Monica

Robert John Bencal Great

Tony W. Lasinski Great Story!

Katie Grady I love this story!!!!


COMMENTS

History

Bob Marks

Bob Marks is a harness racing Hall of Fame jounalist, the former marketing guru of Perretti Farms and a noted ace  handicapper. Marks has been a vital and active part of the racing game for over 50 years, first establishing himself as a handicapper of renown during the Golden Years of the Roosevelt-Yonkers circuit, then contributing a steady stream of informed and reasoned articles to the top trade publications.

A Roosevelt Tale
by Bob Marks

So it’s the night Buddy Gilmour hops aboard Tarquinius only to suffer the indignity of the horse breaking as he leaves the gate and winds up some half dozen lengths behind what was a pretty powerful FFA-JFA handicap field.

As is well known, Tarquinius caught the field past the quarter, swept wide past the third turn and won pretty handily in what was stellar time for the era.

Which prompted Woody. Yes that Woody! A lot younger, considerably more svelte but every bit as opinionated to start bellowing “HE’S BETTER THAN THE TRICK… HE’S BETTER THAN THE TRICK, meaning Overtrick who by that time had been forced to call it a year.

Mind you there’s upwards of 35,000 enduring as Neil Diamond would sing a HOT AUGUST NIGHT and at least 10,000 of them had to be crammed onto the Roosevelt apron.

Unfortunately Loud Mouth Tony Sorvino took exception probably fueled by a dwindling bankroll as a result of his fistful of blown exactas tickets none of which matched whatever number Tarquinius happened to have been.

Now understand Loudmouth Tony had evolved into a balding over inflated version of the promising middleweight he once was until Joey Giardello (yes that Joey Giardello) exposed his delicate crystal like chin.

Tony who worked the night shift at the newsstand on the southwest corner of Times Square (when it was no mans land) still had the kick of a mule in his punch and did not have to watch his back getting in and out of subways. He was also the kind of guy you could leave your girlfriend with in a sea of  degenerates while you went to cash knowing full well she’d be there every hair intact when you got back.

So Tony and Woody are debating the relative merits of Overtrick and Tarquinius in rather heated fashion when I felt the need to restrain Woody before the famed Sorvino uppercut might be launched.

Bob Marks

The key here is that there must have been 200 people in the immediate vicinity who felt the need to participate as the arguments pros and cons were every bit as vociferous as you might expect from a Yankees-Boston or Ohio State-Michigan crowd.

Yes! Hundreds of fans passionately discussing the relative merits of the two great pacing horses as fight fans would discourse the difference in abilities and styles of Louis, Marciano or Ali.

And it wasn’t just an isolated incident. Every night, there’d be banter about Bret Hanover, Romeo Hanover. Meadow Skipper, Speedy Scot, Ayres etc and many a voice demanded to be heard.

It even carried over to Gam Wah.

Imagine that! Fans arguing about which horse is better!

Books by
Bob Marks available
on Amazon

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Horseracing Integrity Act

About Kenneth McPeek

Kenneth G. McPeek was born August 2, 1962 in Fort Chaffee, Arkansas and was raised in Lexington, Kentucky.  He graduated from Tates Creek High School and then the University of Kentucky with a Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration.  He retained his trainer’s license in 1985.

Kenny has discovered and/or trained such quality racehorses as Kathmanblu, Dream Empress, Tejano Run, Harlan’s Holiday, Hard Buck (BRZ), Repent, Take Charge Lady, Sweet Talker, Leah's Secret, She’s A Devil Due, Wild Desert, Einstein (BRZ), Prince Arch, Noble's Promise, Sarava and Curlin, among others.

Trainer Kenny McPeek Joins WHOA to
Support The Horseracing Integrity Act
by, Staci Hancock WHOA

After nearly 35 years of training thoroughbreds, Kenny McPeek is fast approaching a career milestone of 200 stakes wins. Currently, Kenny has 195 stakes wins, with over 40 of them graded. Most notable victories came in 2002, with the Belmont Stakes winner Sarava and back-to-back Spinster Stakes' with Take Charge Lady in 2002 & 2003.
 
Kenny's stable is likely to garner much interest in the coming months with two top 3-year-olds on the Kentucky Derby trail - Signalman and Harvey Wallbanger.

Signalman won the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes at Keeneland and finished third in the Breeder's Cup Juvenile, while, Harvey Wallbanger went from last to first in winning the Grade 2 Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream Park.
 
Kenny won more races (19) in 2018 with horses off Lasix than any other trainer in the United States. He also led all trainers with 15 stakes placed finishes with horses off Lasix.
 
He serves on the Boards of the UK Agricultural Equine Program and the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association (TOBA). He is a member of the NYRA Equine Veterinary Medical Director Search Committee.  

In a statement to the Water Hay Oats Alliance, Mr. McPeek shared the following:
 
As a horseman who has been fortunate to participate in racing in many countries, I firmly believe we need to bring uniformity to American racing which will meet international standards.  The world is getting smaller and we need to be a leader in clean sport and uniformity, not a follower. 
 
I've had good success winning without Lasix, especially fillies like Daddys Lil Darling, Pure Fun, and Princess Warrior to name a few.  I particularly feel strongly that the Graded Stakes we run in North America should be run without race day medication.   Having trained lower quality horses early in my career and continuing to have claiming horses today, I recognize there are horses that need help.  However at the upper levels of the sport we should be aware that these horses should be on a level playing field with the rest of the world horse industry.  
 
Standards are set for many international jurisdictions and for our Graded Stakes to adapt would be something I wish to see one day sooner than later.  WHOA is working to make that happen through the passage of the Horseracing Integrity Act and I'm in agreement that it is a worthy cause. 
 
See You At The Races, 
Kenneth McPeek

Kenneth McPeek

Legislation

Congressman Vern Buchanan

is a member of the United States House of Representatives. He has represented Florida's 16th congressional district since 2007. He is a member of the Republican Party. Buchanan is the only member from Florida on the House Ways and Means Committee, which has jurisdiction over tax policy, international trade, health care, and Social Security. Prior to serving in Congress, Buchanan was in business for over 30 years and was the chairman of both the Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce and the Florida Chamber of Commerce. He served as member of the board and the executive committee of the United States Chamber of Commerce.

Buchanan continues push to end horse slaughtering in U.S.
by Ripon Advanced News Service

U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-FL) on Feb. 4 unveiled bipartisan legislation to prevent the human health threats posed by the consumption of horses raised in the United States by permanently banning their slaughter.

The Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act, H.R. 961, sponsored by U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), also would prohibit the export of live horses to Mexican and Canadian slaughterhouses to be sold overseas.

“The slaughter of horses for consumption is a barbaric practice that has no place in America,” said Rep. Buchanan, chairman of the Animal Protection Caucus in Congress. “I will continue to lead the effort with Congresswoman Schakowsky to ban domestic horse slaughter and end the export of horses abroad for the same purpose.”

Although currently illegal in the United States, the slaughter ban is temporary and subject to annual congressional review, according to information released by the congressman’s office, and no federal law exists to prohibit the transport of horses across America’s borders for slaughter in Canada or Mexico.

“Horses have a special place in our nation’s history, and these majestic creatures were not raised as food for humans,” Rep. Schakowsky said. Roughly 100,000 American horses are exported annually to Canadian and Mexican slaughterhouses, according to Rep. Buchanan, who cited U.S. Department of Agriculture data, and more than 90 percent of them were healthy.

H.R. 961 received endorsements from the Humane Society, the Animal Welfare Institute, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), Return to Freedom, and Animal Wellness Action.

Sara Amundson, president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund, commended the lawmakers for their leadership in introducing H.R. 961, which she said also would protect “unsuspecting consumers from horse meat tainted with dangerous drugs that are not fit for human consumption.”
Rep. Buchanan in January 2017 sponsored the same-named H.R. 113, which gained 218 cosponsors.

Congressman Vern Buchanan

Nancy Perry, senior vice president of government relations for the ASPCA, said that membership is “grateful to Representatives Schakowsky and Buchanan for their steadfast commitment to ending this greed-driven cruelty to our horses.”

The reintroduced bill, H.R. 961, has been referred for consideration to both the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee and the U.S. House Agriculture Committee.

Rep. Buchanan is the original cosponsor of H.R. 961, which already has garnered 71 other cosponsors since its introduction two weeks ago.

Legislation

Susan Arrington

Susan is a former Department of Interior (DOI) Analyst, who worked with Congress on appropriations and later Northrop Grumman consultant in strategic Planning.

Status on the Number of U.S. Horses Slaughtered in 2018 and on the 116th Session Bills Reintroduced 
by Susan Arrington USHRAA

Statistics for the actual number of U.S. horses transported and slaughtered in Canada and Mexico in 2018 are still a work in-progress. Although Canada compiles its own report, The Horse Trade Report, we were informed that they utilize and/or coordinate some data from the USDA and due to the U.S. government shutdown were delaying their report until further notice. Canada’s fourth quarter data for 2018 would have normally been published by mid-February, yet we do expect a report soon.

Data from U.S. to Mexico USDA Market News, Livestock Weekly Export Summary in an end-of-year report was available. The numbers are up from last year about 2%. The statistics from Mexico do not differentiate or record an actual number of horses, but instead record horses with other equines such as burros, mules, donkeys, miniatures and ponies. Last year we attempted to provide a more definitive number of solely horses to determine where we were in rescuing, yet the actual number of other equines has become too difficult to factor without confirmation – it may be 5,000, or 20,000+ in a particular year. The number of horses slaughtered is a baseline number for defining other data such as breeds and costs.

In my communications with the USDA on their stats, I found it somewhat amusing that the Washington DC contact person they gave me to talk more in depth on the inclusive “all equines” data had a recording on his phone that he was on holiday until January 10th – although I had called about mid-February and could only leave a message. So, perhaps, the USDA is being affected by the shutdowns more than I thought.

Here’s what we have to date and we’ll project the Q4 numbers for Canada from Q3 and then follow-up with actuals.

U.S. Live Horse and Other Equine Exports for Slaughter

                               2018                       2017       Change Percentage +-
Canada               10,125 projected       12,273               -17.50%
Mexico                70,708                     67,289                 5.08%
Total Horses      80,833                     79,562                 1.59%

Sources:
Canada - Horse Trade Report, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Government of Canada.
Mexico - USDA Market News, U.S. to Mexico Livestock Weekly Export Summary.

Susan Arrington

There are exceedingly positive opportunities for passage of the horse protection bills this session. The Safeguard American Food Export Act of 2019, sponsored by Jan Schakowsky, D-IL 9th, was introduced February 4, 2019 as HR 961 and referred to the Energy and Commerce and Agriculture Committees (71 co-sponsors as of 2/28/19); the Horse Racing Integrity Act is to be introduced by Paul Tonko, D-NY 20th, shortly; and the PAST Act was introduced by Kurt Schrader, D-OR 5th on January 22, 2019 as HR 693 and referred to the Energy and Commerce Committee (153 co-sponsors as of 2/28/19). Please watch for these bills and texts as they become available on congress.gov and other sources.
Comments

Harness Racing

Time to Address Our Business Model
by Charles Martino

“The society that loses its grip on the past is in danger, for it produces men who know nothing but the present, and who are not aware that life had been, and could be, different from what it is”. Aristotle

I choose the above Aristotle quote for 2 reason, 1st he is considered to be the Father of Logic and 2nd nothing can be more truer then that statement and were Harness Racing is today. One only has to realize that we are now nearly 42 years from the sports Apex. That means that the generation that bought this sport to that apex is long gone. Which now opens up the true problem. People who now enjoy racing, like the product as it is. That is because they have no experience of and can’t imagine what it could be or once was. That very lack of knowledge makes change for the better almost impossible.

It is at this point that maybe we should revisit the Business Model that the business was founded on. That would be “To provide entertainment, excitement and value. By the means of racing horses in competition that through the nature fatigue produces racing were the final results are determined in the stretch to the finish line”. When done so properly it is the most exciting when Noses, heads and Necks are the measurements used to separate many horses at the finish. We need only to look at today’s product to see how far away we have moved the business from that model. Let’s just a look at one aspect, the new race bikes. They are a foot and a half longer than the old modified sulkies. But when you add the change in driver’s position that foot and a half become 3.5-4 feet longer and that distance is compounded by the number of horses sitting in front of any given horse. Sitting sixth has now added 20 more feet more for a horse of today to overcome than a horse sitting 6th did in the 70’s. Thus we threw the Noses, heads and necks part of the business model right out the door. That is just basic math, and as we were taught in school math doesn’t lie.

We again assault the business model in our chase for Speed, by the very nature of us chasing speed we have eliminated the competitive aspect of the results being determine in the stretch to the finish. Today we see most races are over at the ¼ pole, because we made the front end the fastest place on the track and it is now too easy for these horse to cover the mile. Instead of people getting a minute or two or excitement, the excitement is over 60-70% of the time in less than 30 seconds. Where once 60-70 % of the races were determine in the lane that number has flipped. The Excitement aspect of our business model is now negated to 20-30 percent of the product shown. In a world where TIME is so cherished, is a 30% excitement really enough to draw people?

Charles Martino

So what’s left VALUE? In the 70’s I could go to the track and bet 2 dollars a race to win, I then could hit two races and leave a winner. First we must understand the evolution of the racing fan/bettor. It doesn’t start off with them betting exotic bets, it starts with them betting to Win. With today’s win payouts that probability is far less. Today’s first time track patron can bet the same 2 dollars a race to win, hit 4 races and leave a loser, where is the value in that? Hit 100% mote times and still have a better chance of losing, when written paper it seem even more ludicrous to try. Again the exotic bettor evolves from the person who first finds value in the game, and then is willing to search for greater rewards vs risk. By not having that same value in the first experiences that the game had in the 70’s , we are losing people who could see find value in the game and therefore want to experience it again. Also speed holding up changes the way one handicaps, so much so that I myself have missed many 20 dollar winners because I change my mind based on the overwhelming speed bias that has taken place. I said in the 80’s as the 4-5 odds boards started to become ever so common it is a Lose/Lose situation for the tracks. 4-5 Wins the game has no value, 4-5 loses and the game is fixed.

Now there are many many reasons for these things that need to be address, but that bring us back to the Aristotle quote. Not many in the game really know or understand the past, and when you add that they like the game the way it is you can see how CHANGE may be near impossible. At this point there are to warning that are Screaming for us to make changes an what people in the Horse business need to understand. First, 30 years ago all the tracks were owned by people who wanted to be in the race horse business, today they are owned by people who want to be in the casino business. So you better watch your backs. Second, in the 70’s Yonkers used to draw 14000 plus people a night. Today once again they are drawing 14000 plus people a day. Those people it draws today are sitting in front of a machine for hours, while they know that machine is FIXED against them. Yet they don’t walk 50 feet to see our product, this game isn’t dead, it lacks the courage to change and move back toward the business model that gave it the greatest results.

There is one more Aristotle quote that applies to us.
“Our problem is not that we aim too high and miss, but that we aim too low and hit.”

Legislation

Marty Irby

Marty Irby is the executive director at Animal Wellness Action in Washington, D.C., eight-time world champion rider, and a past president of the Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders’ & Exhibitors’ Association.

Pass the SAFE Act HR 961
by Marty Irby

America was built on the backs of horses, and this month, U.S. Reps. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) and Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-FL) introduced the Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act, H.R. 961, to end the slaughter of our iconic American equines. The measure prohibits the transport and export of U.S. horses to slaughter for human consumption. Horses have played an unmeasurable role in our culture and in building our modern-day society, and they don’t deserve this end.

The bipartisan SAFE Act garnered 219 cosponsors in the House in the previous Congress. An even larger majority of the newly elected House undoubtedly supports this legislation, perhaps as many as two-thirds of them. More than a decade ago, a similar measure passed the House, and even Vice-President Mike Pence, then a U.S. Congressman from Indiana, was among the super-majority supporting the bill.

The Senate also has shown an willingness to end horse slaughter, with U.S. Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), and Tom Udall (D-NM) leading the charge in the Upper Chamber. In fact, last year, the Senate
Appropriations Committee, chaired by my home state Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL), included language in their Agriculture Appropriations to defund horse slaughter inspections in the U.S., making it impossible to slaughter horses here.

The slaughter of American equines for human consumption claimed around 70,000 horses in 2018–most of them perfectly healthy, and fit to be utilized for recreation, or competition. We don’t eat horse meat in America just as we don’t eat dogs and cats (Congress banned the slaughter of Dogs and Cats for human consumption in the Farm Bill and President Trump signed that measure into law in December). Horse slaughter is a cruel and terrifying end for the horses, and these creatures have done nothing to warrant this kind of mistreatment and crass exploitation.

In 2012, a report showed that approximately 19% of horses sent to slaughter were Thoroughbreds, but there does not appear to be much data on the numbers since then. Due to the efforts of the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance and increasing anti-horse slaughter policies at many of America’s racetracks, the numbers have most certainly declined, and we applaud their work. But there’s still room for work to prevent slaughter by supporting the SAFE Act.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture documented serious cruelty violations in plants previously operated in the United States prior to closure in 2007. Millions of taxpayer funds were being wasted to “oversee” operations involving horses with broken bones and terrifying eye injuries in foreign-owned facilities on an annual basis prior to their closure.
As our national debt continues to rise, and the taxpayer continues to foot the bill, Congress should be more mindful of our fiscal responsibility and prevent millions of tax dollars from funding the slaughter of horses and propping up an egregious foreign-driven enterprise.

Marty Irby

Most Americans want no part of this enterprise of supplying foreign diners with horse slabs. Even Ferdinand, the winner of the 1986 Kentucky Derby, fell victim to this predatory industry, and that’s just not acceptable. If one of the nation’s most popular horses is prodded into a kill chute, then no horse is safe.

In this time of political division, the SAFE Act is a bill both parties can get behind. Hundreds of thousands of advocates are calling on the House Agriculture and Energy and Commerce Committees–that have joint jurisdiction over the issue–led by Chairmen Collin Peterson (D-MN) and Frank Pallone (D-NJ), and Ranking Members Greg Walden (R-OR) and Mike Conaway (R-TX) to work together to advance the bill to vote. The measure would surely pass and fulfill the will of the people–something that poll after poll have proven more than 80% of Americans support.

The U.S. House of Representatives can take first action on this bill. We hope you’ll support this effort and call your legislators at 202-224-3121 to ask them to cosponsor the SAFE Act, H.R. 961.

Harness Racing

Derick Giwner

Derick serves as Editor of DRF Harness for Daily Racing Form. He has worked for Sports Eye/Harness Eye since 1996 and has served as editor of the paper since 2005. He has worn many hats in the industry, including owner, amateur driver, track announcer, and chartcaller.

Harness: Rolling the sport into the future
by Derick Giwner DRF

It seems like only yesterday that I posted this piece on the declining relationship between bowling and harness racing. Nearly five years has passed and it seems that at least one of the two sports has found new life.

In 2018, the Professional Bowlers Association signed a deal with Fox Sports to televise 30 events in 2019, with the majority broadcast live and many in prime time. Perhaps more importantly, bowling will return to network television, where it was a mainstay from 1962 until the late 1990s on ABC. FOX is scheduled to air four events in 2019 with three of them live.
Prior to this new deal, bowling was edging close to the gutter, with live telecasts banished to the online streaming ESPN 3 network on many occasions and down to just 17 total broadcasts in 2018. The exposure certainly increases now with FS1 available in over 80 million households according to Wikipedia.

Some will argue that being in front of millions of eyes alone is a plus for bowling and maybe they are right. For me, it comes down to whether the product is engaging.

As a fan and participant in bowling since my early teens, there was a time when I wouldn’t miss the weekly telecast of the sport. I bowled dozens of games a week and enjoyed watching the sport played at the ultimate level on TV. But my interest waned over time, partially because I wasn’t bowling as much and due to the lack of innovation in the broadcasts.

Bowling tried to innovate with background music and making the sport more ‘hip’ to no avail throughout much of the last 10 years. It was the same ol’ thing with loud music. While the equipment in bowling, like harness racing, has seen major advancements in the last 20 years, technology in the broadcasts was left behind (though at least it was being shown in HD, unlike many Standardbred races). That is where the PBA has rolled a 300 game in this new relationship with Fox Sports.

It’s called Specto StrikeTrack technology according to this release from Fox Sports and it provides viewers with detailed data on how each bowler is attacking the lanes. You get everything from ball speed and revolutions per minute to a traced path of each ball down the lane. This information was especially enlightening on the January 27 broadcast when each of the two lanes used had different oil patterns, which resulted in the bowlers using completely different approaches to success.

With the higher visibility and new “bells and whistles” bowling instantly went from a sport I haven’t watched regularly in decades to something I already set my DVR to record in case I’m not around for the next live event. It’s amazing what can be accomplished when you work harder to engage your customers.
What the PBA has achieved in terms of exposure and advancement is something that harness racing can certainly learn from. We have but one national telecast in the U.S. (the Hambletonian) and virtually no technology to entice viewers to pay attention.

We’ve discussed ad nauseam the merits of harness racing being on TV. Meadowlands Chairman Jeff Gural is a staunch supporter of the sport being on TV while others feel that we have little to gain by exposing the sport to a wider audience without a clear plan in place.
For my money, while it can’t hurt to be in front of more eyes, are we really displaying the best of our sport by simply doing the same thing we’ve been doing for years? Yes, a purist will say the race itself along with a feature on one of the participants should be enough, but it simply is not.

This is where we need to get on board with incorporating more technology. Perhaps that is the missing piece to the puzzle to making harness racing more appealing to a general audience. Just off the top of my head . . .

          1)  Wireless cameras and mics on all drivers in the televised    
               races with the ability to switch to those feeds at the
               director’s will.
          2)  Use of animation. Check out this great replay of the 2019                    Prix d’Amerique as part of PMU Tracking.
          3)  Interviews with all trainers pre-race and all drivers post-race                so people feel like they are behind the scenes.
          4) On-screen graphics to provide a clear picture of where all                      horses are during the race and how the race is progressing.                This makes the viewing experience easier for the novice.

I’m sure there are many other options available to better display harness racing to both newbies and veteran players. With $429 million in purse money distributed in 2018 at U.S. tracks, certainly there are funds available to invest in the technology that could bring our sport to a new level in terms of visibility.

One final area where bowling is doing a great job is sending a singular message to the public that the sport is fun and participation is easy. They created GoBowling.com where anyone can instantly find a bowling alley in their neighborhood. The site reminds me of the Harness Racing Fan Zone, except that GoBowling was clearly better funded and the goals are more focused – Go bowling and here is how to do it. It makes you wonder if the Fan Zone could’ve reached the same level if the industry continued to provide funding. It would be nice if anyone in the country could plug in their zip code and find the nearest racetrack along with getting a free $2 betting voucher or a program.

It is possible to move the sport forward, but only if we innovate and work together.

Horse Racing Coming To Georgia

Jessica Szilagyi

Jessica Szilagyi is a Statewide Contributor for AllOnGeorgia.com. She focuses primarily on state and local politics as well as agricultural news. She has a background in Political Science, with a focus in local government, and has a Master of Public Administration from the University of Georgia. She's a "Like It Or Not" contributor for Fox5 in Atlanta and has two blogs of her own: The Perspicacious Conservative and "Hair Blowers to Lawn Mowers."

Horse Racing Bill Filed as Constitutional Amendment, “Rural Georgia Jobs and Growth Act”
by Jessica Szilagyi

Legislation filed in the Georgia State Senate would regulate pari-mutuel horse racing in the state for a handful of licensed equestrian centers approved by a newly-created Commission.
Senate Bill 45 would create the Georgia Horse Racing Commission, which would report to the General Assembly, and allow for wagering on horse races. Sponsored by Senators Brandon Beach, Burt Jones, Jeff Mullis, Ed Harbison, Emanuel Jones, and Freddie Powell Sims, the bill has been assigned to the Senate Economic Development and Tourism Committee. It is accompanied by a Constitutional Amendment – SR 84 – which means it would have be approved by voters.

The legislation, which has the support of Republicans and Democrats, reads that the wagering from horse racing would “support the state’s agricultural, tourism, and convention businesses, and enhance state revenues.”

Horse racing facilities and licenses for operation would not be allowed unless the county where the track is to be located has voted to approve the statewide constitutional  amendment referendum to allow for pari-mutuel wagering. So, if the amendment passes on the Georgia ballot but the county did not approve it as a majority, that county is not eligible for the investment of the facility. The exception is if it is approved by a local referendum.

Senate Bill 45, named the “Rural Georgia Jobs and Growth Act,” would do the following:

Offers 30 separate definitions related to horse racing to ensure specific legal terms related to the regulation
Gives the Georgia Horse Racing Commission full legal authority over practice of pari-mutuel wagering on horse racing, but prohibits the use of  coin operated amusement machines

Commission members would serve 4-year terms with no compensation outside of expenses

Commission members must include ‘prominent persons in their businesses or professions’ and include 1 Commissioner with a horse in The Jockey Club, 1 Commissioner with a 10-year thoroughbred owner and horse owner license, 1 Commissioner with experience financing horses or horse racing, and 1 Commissioner with a United States Trotting Association standardbred license

Commission members cannot have a conflict of interest in the contracts forthcoming

Commissioners will appoint an executive who will be the Commissioner

The Commission can enter into contracts, take on debt, issue loans, issue citations, conduct investigations, and a number of other privileges

Impose a 60-day per year, per facility operation minimum on license holders who host horse racing events

Requires that the Commission approve any contract between the licensed facility and a horseman’s group no less than 90 days before the event

Provides for the position of ‘Stewards’ who oversee the racing at the events and enforce the Commission’s rules

Would allow Georgians to partake in pari-mutuel wagering on horse races at licensed facilities if they’re over the age of 21
Caps the licenses for the facilities at 3 in the entire state and must:

Provide financial information and information about its principal shareholders and officers,

Pay upwards of a $500,000 nonrefundable fee

Must be within 50 miles of an international airport with at least 5 runways

Must include a minimum investment of $250 million per equestrian facility

Applications won’t be awarded to any facility unless the applicant, the majority of the shareholders, or the majority of the owners have a “history of successful history operating a horse track.”

If a license is awarded to a facility, the applicant must pay $50 million to the Commission within 10 days or face revocation.
The first license is good for 10 years and a renewal is $250,000.

Jessica Szilagyi

Employees of the Commission, spouses, and immediately family members are barred from having interest in a facility and cannot participate in the ownership of a horse. They’re also barred from having interest in a prize for a race.

Requires a permit for all things related to horse racing, including horse owner, trainer, jockey, driver, exercise rider, starter, groom, stable foreman, valet, veterinarian, agent,  pari-mutuel employee, and concessionaire.

20% of the monthly earnings must be paid to the state Commission

Prohibits local governments from further imposing taxes on the practice

Outlines dozens of prohibitions in terms of the integrity of horse racing practices, including falsifying information, rigging races, and the punishments of such.

SB 45 also requires a portion of the pari-mutuel pools wagering money, at a cap of 5%, earned be set aside for: education, health care needs, and rural development breeding incentives from the Georgia Breeders Funds state resources for the treatment of problem pari-mutuel wagering issues

Racing horse retirement 
If passed, the Constitutional Amendment would appear on the ballot as follows: Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended so as to authorize pari-mutuel betting on horse racing in the State of Georgia?”

Senator Frank Ginn is chairman of the Senate committee to which SB 45 has been assigned. You can contact him by email at [email protected] 3 of the bill sponsors sit on this committee.

American Horse Council

American Horse Council

The American Horse Council is a trade organization in Washington, DC representing the horse industry. The organization formed in 1969, with a committee that became the Coalition of State Horse Councils forming in 1970, now having 43 states participating. American Horse Council Foundation was founded in 1991

Former AHC Employee Pleads Guilty in Theft of $545,594
USHRAA News

Ashley Furst, a former employee of the American Horse Council, pleaded guilty Jan. 29 to a federal wire fraud charge stemming from an embezzlement scheme in which she stole more than $545,000 from that non-profit organization based in the District of Columbia that lobbies on behalf of the equine industry.

Furst, 35, of Highlands Ranch, Colo., entered the guilty plea in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The charge carries a statutory maximum of 20 years in prison and potential financial penalties. Under federal sentencing guidelines, Furst faces a likely range of 27 to 33 months in prison and a fine of up to $100,000. 

She also has agreed to pay $545,594 in restitution and the same amount in a forfeiture money judgment. Judge Dabney L. Friedrich scheduled sentencing for May 10.

A civil case brought in September of 2018 by the AHC against Furst and her husband, Christopher, continues in U.S. District Court, the District of Colorado.

According to the government's evidence, Furst was hired in 2011 as the AHC's office administrator. She was later promoted to the position of director of communications.

Furst's responsibilities while employed by the non-profit included public outreach, membership recruitment, and communications. She also handled duties typically performed by an office administrator, such as maintaining accounting records, reconciling the monthly bank account statements, transferring on-line donations from the PayPal account to their bank account, providing copies of the bank statements to the members of the Board of Directors, and serving as the sole point of contact for the outside auditors.

Ashley & Christopher Furst

Starting in 2012 and continuing through June of 2018, Furst stole money from the non-profit in a variety of ways. First, she paid her own personal credit card bills from her employer's bank account, primarily through online debits from the bank account to satisfy her credit card balance, for approximately $415,202.52. Second, she wrote herself unauthorized checks drawn on her employer's bank account, typically listing on the memo line a bogus reason for the check, for approximately $83,656.40. Third, she repaid her personal loan from her employer's funds, for approximately $56,411.43. Fourth, although Furst was responsible for transferring donations from her employer's PayPal account, she misdirected approximately $60,949.49 to her own account or to pay for personal items. Fifth, Furst increased her salary without authorization, by approximately $29,875.03. 

Through these five methods, Furst embezzled approximately $646,094. However, before the victim discovered the crime, Furst returned $100,500 to her employer, leaving a total embezzlement of $545,594.

In announcing the plea, U.S. Attorney Jessie Liu and assistant director Nancy McNamara commended the work performed by those who investigated the case from the FBI's Washington Field Office. They acknowledged the efforts of those who worked on the case from the U.S. Attorney's Office, including paralegal specialist Amanda Rohde and assistant U.S. Attorney Virginia Cheatham.

News From Arizona

Lawmaker pushes bill to abolish Arizona Racing Commission as Ducey appoints new member
by, Dennis Wagner, Arizona Republic

An Arizona lawmaker this week submitted a bill to abolish the state Racing Commission just as Gov. Doug Ducey announced the appointment of a new member to the board that regulates Arizona horse racing.

Rep. T.J. Shope, R-Coolidge, is sponsoring legislation that would shift all the Arizona Racing Commission's authority to the state Department of Gaming, which already regulates parimutuel wagering to some extent through its Racing Division.

That move comes amid controversy about safety at Arizona horse tracks and turmoil among members of the Racing Commission.

In 2017, Commissioner William "Bill" Feldmeier resigned while criticizing his colleagues for failing to promote a dying industry, and for their involvement in a legal fight between two brothers over control of Turf Paradise in Phoenix. Referring to the commission, Feldmeier said, "It probably ought to just go away."

Another commissioner, David Heiple, resigned in December, leaving only three positions filled on the five-member body. 
In January, Commissioner Rory Goree blocked a vote on renewal of Turf Paradise's license by storming out of a meeting after decrying a perceived lack of safety in Arizona horse racing. "If we're not as a collective group giving a s--t about security," Goree asked, "how are we giving a s--t about racing? …We have people's lives — and horses' lives — at risk."
This month, The Arizona Republic reported that the state's racetracks suffer equine fatalities at twice the national death rate. Officials with Turf Paradise and the Department of Gaming have said they are investigating why catastrophic injuries doubled in just two years, and what can be done to address that spike.

Rep. T.J. Shope, R-Coolidge
 (Photo: Charlie Leight/The Republic)

Shope said he's found Racing Commission developments "concerning," and believes the Gaming Department "seems to function better." He said he has not discussed the legislation with the governor, and it is too early to gauge prospects for the bill's passage. 

Meanwhile, Ducey on Tuesday selected Charles "Chuck" Coolidge, a political and corporate campaign executive, to fill one of the commission vacancies.

Coolidge, a partner with the Republican-leaning Lincoln Strategy Group, said he was recruited by the Governor's Office and has no ties to horse racing and no history with Turf Paradise or Simms.

"That's kind of what separates me from the pack," Coolidge added. "I'm interested in bringing transparency and an outside perspective… I know it's a priority for the Governor's Office to make sure the commission is well functioning." 

Ducey's spokesman declined to comment on Shope's bill.
The Racing Commission was created by the Legislature in 1949 to set policy and regulate parimutuel horse and greyhound events. Besides Turf Paradise, the commission oversees Rillito Racetrack in Tucson and Arizona Downs (formerly Yavapai Downs), which is preparing to re-open in Prescott. There is no longer dog racing in Arizona.

Sports Wagering

Joe Sonka

Joe Sonka is a staff writer at Insider Louisville focusing on government, politics, education and public safety. He is a former news editor and staff writer at LEO Weekly and has also freelanced for The Nation and ThinkProgress. He has won first place awards from the Louisville Metro chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists in the categories of Health Reporting, Enterprise Reporting, Government/Politics, Minority/Women’s Affairs Reporting, Continuing Coverage and Best Blog. Email him at [email protected]

Bill to legalize and regulate sports wagering in Kentucky receives hearing
by Joe Sonka

A bill that would legalize wagering on sporting events and earmark tax revenue to Kentucky’s underfunded pension system received a hearing at a legislative committee meeting in Frankfort Wednesday morning.

House Bill 175, sponsored by Rep. Adam Koenig, R-Erlanger, would allow Kentuckians to not just wager on most sporting events around the country, but also set up a regulatory framework for residents to legally play online poker and fantasy sports contests, with the state receiving revenue from taxes, registration fees and licensing fees.

Estimates have shown that Americans illegally bet anywhere from $100 billion to $150 billion on sports each year — with the large majority of that revenue going overseas — but after the Supreme Court of the United States struck down a national ban on sports wagering, many states have begun efforts to legalize, regulate and tax such betting.
Noting this Supreme Court ruling, Koenig told the House Licensing, Occupations & Administrative Regulations Committee that “we have an opportunity now to make sure this is done legally, safely and in a regulated fashion, where people can be protected when they want to engage in this type of activity.”

The bill would establish a wagering fund through newly taxed gaming revenue to administer the program, with 5 percent of the remaining funds going to a gambling addiction services program and the rest dedicated to a fund established in 2016 for paying down the state’s public pension plans.
Acknowledging that Kentucky’s public pension systems are “over $40 billion in the hole,” Koenig said his bill “is not going to fix the pension system, but every bit we can find to go to it helps.”

Gov. Matt Bevin has publicly ridiculed the idea of paying for the state’s pension liabilities with newly taxed revenue from either the legalized expansion of gambling or marijuana, saying that it would take hundreds of years for such revenue to raise what is needed while causing negative effects to society.

In HB 175, sports wagering would go under the exclusive jurisdiction of the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, with only horse racing tracks and the Kentucky Speedway eligible to receive a license. The original bill filed by Koenig set an initial licensing fee of $1 million for these venues to allow sports wagering, with an annual renewal fee of $50,000, but a substitute bill filed with the committee on Wednesday cut that initial fee in half to $500,000.

Koenig explained that such licensed venues would allow sports wagering on their property, with a tax rate of 10.25 percent. But Kentuckians could also go to these venues to download an app on their mobile phones, which could then be used to bet on sports at any location within the state and be taxed at a higher rate of 14.25 percent.

The only restrictions on such sports wagering would be on games played by colleges in Kentucky, with Koenig bringing up the possibility of local corruption and bribery. Under the bill, it would be a Class A misdemeanor for a person to place a wager on a game in which they are a participant while tampering with the outcome of a sporting event would be a Class C felony.

The legislation would also allow the Kentucky Lottery Corporation to authorize online poker games, with an initial licensing fee of $250,000, a renewal fee of $10,000 and gaming fee of 6.75 percent on such revenue. Fantasy sports operators would have to register with the Public Protection Cabinet, with an initial fee of $5,000 and a renewal fee of either $5,000 or 6 percent of its adjusted gross revenue, whichever is higher.
House Bill 175 has not yet received a fiscal impact statement from the Legislative Research Commission, but a private consultant testified to the committee that the taxable revenue on sports wagering alone would be at least $20 million a year for Kentucky.

Commonwealth Economics Founder John Farris — who is also the chairman of the Kentucky Retirement Systems — told the committee that based on studies of such betting overseas and in states that have recently legalized it, in-person sports wagering would generate $4.6 million in Kentucky annually, while mobile wagering would bring in $15.6 million.

Farris said that this estimate did not include the $500,000 licensing fees for sports wagering venues or revenue from fantasy sports and online poker, and only counted the participation of adult Kentucky residents. Assuming no other surrounding states also legalized sports wagering, Farris estimated that Kentucky’s annual revenue could reach $48 million per year.

Joe Sonka

However, Koenig noted West Virginia has already legalized sports wagering, while bills that would do so in Indiana and Tennessee are already progressing quickly through their state legislatures. Noting the progress of such legislation in neighboring states — and acknowledging the potential revenue already lost by Kentucky’s failure to expand gaming with casinos — Koenig warned, “let’s not be behind the curve, as we have been in other areas on this topic in the past.”

Asked after the meeting who commissioned Commonwealth Economics to analyze the fiscal impact of HB 175, Koenig told Insider Louisville that it was paid for Keeneland, the historic racetrack in Lexington.

Critics say the bill is unconstitutional, would breed corruption
House Bill 175 was not without its critics in the committee meeting from both ends of the perspective when it comes to gambling, which included a representative on a large fantasy sports company and the socially conservative Family Foundation of Kentucky.

Stacy Stern, the manager of government affairs for FanDuel, testified against the legislation, speaking against the need for mobile users on the sports wagering app to have to download and register for that app at the physical venues, as they are able to verify the age and eligibility users online. She also criticized the prohibition on betting on games involving Kentucky universities.

From the other end of the perspective, Stan Cave — an attorney for the Family Foundation of Kentucky, which opposes expanded gaming in any form on moral and legal grounds — testified that HB 175 was “an attempt to slip daylight past the rooster,” as its provisions could not be allowed without an amendment to Kentucky’s constitution.

Noting that the regulation of sports wagering licenses would come under the Horse Racing Commission, Cave referenced the infamous Boptrot scandal from the decades ago that led to the imprisonment 15 of state legislators and lobbyists, warning that similar corruption could stem from such power. He also told legislators that the commission has been reluctant to fully comply with open records requests, which could complicate the ability to provide sufficient government oversight of its actions.

Koenig said that whatever form his legislation takes — or if the constitution is amended to allow expanded gaming — it will face a lawsuit from the likes of the Family Foundation, so the matter will ultimately be decided by the courts. He also noted that he took offense at Cave’s reference to the Boptrot scandal, assuring the committee members that the implication was unwarranted.
The committee meets again next week, where members could take up a vote on the bill.

Besides Nevada and New Jersey, eight states have passed laws legalizing sports wagering since the Supreme Court ruling.

Add Your Title Here

A Grooms Journey, Part VI
by Oscar Belliveau

My life at the farm helped to settle me down and allowed me the opportunity to begin to understand my life better! The man who ran the stable of horses was Denis Larochelle.

There were a few other people working there. They were, Maurice, Claude, as well as the man that ended up being the groom of Most Happy Fella> There was a young man from Nova Scotia by the name of Frazier McCloud and another character named Pitou. There was also Denis’s father, Honorat Larochelle, who was a tough knowledgeable horseman. who was in semi retirement (he didn’t drive but still trained), but one would never have known that when one saw him work. These were the main people that I worked with over the course of the next three years. Denis was important to me as he was an intelligent man that had great abilities as a horseman. As a matter of fact, he had won a whole bunch of driving titles when he drove in Quebec city. That track was second only to Blue Bonnets in Montreal. As we all know, winning one to two championships is one thing, but winning 9 or 10, well that shows true horsemenship. Denis was a very good man with a nice family. He was and still remains a great horseman, one who never got the breaks that many have had, He was able to get the most out of his horses without resorting to drug use and other illegal means. He helped to lay a foundation in my life and teach me things that I have never forgotten.

The barn we worked in was a beautiful barn. Because we were in Canada, it had a big furnace to keep us warm. There were about 40 horses in it and it had an upstairs quarter for the grooms as well as a kitchen that was run by a then retired trainer and his wife, Jimmy Larente, who was also a living legend of the sport. On that top floor, there was also a well stocked hay loft, filled with hay and straw needed for the horses. Each person took care of four horses (most of the time). We got up at about 6:30 or 7 in the morning and fed the horses. Then we would return upstairs to eat breakfast, which was cooked Mrs. Larente. We did eat well, as she prepared three meals a day for us, and they were deliciously cooked Canadian meals.

We usually exercised the horses and took care of their needs in the morning and at noon, we had lunch upstairs and took some an hour off. Because we had so many horses, we would return at 1 or 1:30 to clean up and put the horses away, making sure we took care of all of their needs, We would be done by about 4 or 4:30 and then we socialised in the entrance area. We would feed the horses and go have our dinner at about 5:30. It was a routine that we did from Monday to Saturday. On Sunday's, we got up, fed and cleaned the horses then we had the rest of the days off, although we came back to feed the horses at 4:30, unless we went away and had someone else do our chores.

A few words about Denis Larochelle, as he had his own public stable and and begun to drive all of the Richelieu Farm horses, which his father trained. The difference between horses now and then is that one had to be really skilled to develop a horse. Now, they wear the lighter hopples, then they were extremely heavy, and they was more difficult to get going, especially for trotters. I have always felt that Denis didn’t really get the due he deserved. His story will be told more completely in a near future in this article. Denis was important to me as he was an intelligent man that had a great understanding of life.

Many a day was spent listening to him talk with others about various subjects over the time that I spent there. There was a policeman from Montreal that would come over and they would enter some into some good conversations and arguments about various subjects related to life, I had good ears and a sense of what was important to listen to and what wasn’t. In one such conversation, I remember they spoke about a man from the north of Quebec that would run 20 miles like it was nothing. They talked about how the scientist were baffled by him. I thought about and I always kept that in the back of my mind. In time, the questions that I thought about from listening to that conversation came back and inspired me to seek answers, many of which I have found over the years.

Those conversations gave me a lot to think about, and when added to the reading that I did, I had the beginning of my ability to grasp the meaning of life, in some rudimentary form. That was a time where I formed my character’s foundation. Perspective is what I gained there. Many a night I walked to and from the village of St Basile Le Grand, a walk that was long enough for me to wonder about life, the stars and what it all meant.

These were questions that my spirit found answers to that have led to a clearer understanding of life and to the magic that it is. That walk was a meditation that allowed me to glimpse the deeper me.

Oscar Belliveau

During that first fall of 1966, my duties there were the following. I had four horses to take care of. That meant doing all the things a groom had to do in a day. Under Denis’s tutelage, I leaned a lot about horses. One thing that stood out about him was the following; even if I screwed up, he never yelled or demeaned me in any way. I have never seen him do that, as long as I or whomever else screwed up, as long as we accepted or understood what had been done wrong. It isn’t to say that he wouldn’t fly off the handle, but he only did that if one argued back, especially if the offending party was wrong.

He was a caring man and still is. We worked hard and had a lot of fun and we were like a big family. In the evenings, I spent reading or watching some TV, although in those days TV consisted of two or three channels only, unlike now.

Sometime we would out to the village which meant going to a bar-restaurant. At other times I would take the bus and go to Montreal for the evening., especially on Friday’s. I would leave at 5:30 and it would be a twenty five minute ride. Then I would take the subway and get off at the main street and go eat pizza or to to the mall and watch a movie. At that time I had turned 16 and because I worked I had some money to buy the things that I needed. My life had become balanced, and I was able to explore Montreal and the sights that it offered. I had a sense of freedom and surely enjoyed the time spent there.

Working there didn’t pay much money and at the same time I didn’t have a sense of money and its value. Since I had never had worked a full time job before or made money I accepted what I made and proceeded to learn how to work and learn to live my life the best that I could. Working there on that farm was a god sent. It provided me with the stability I needed, and at the same time the people that I worked with helped me to become stronger as a person. Denis Larochelle gave me many ideas, and encouraged me to keep reading and learning as much as I could about life. I learned a lot from him, and what he set afoot is still affecting me even to tis day. Maurice and Claude provided me with the knowledge that helped to learn how to care for horses well. Learning how to work wasn’t easy, especially learning how to work well. Taking care of horses is an art, as when working with any living creatures. All living creatures are animated of their own accord so it is by no means a simple task to work with them, especially the ones that are difficult to work with. We did have a few of those. It requires years of practice to determine their needs, how to discover their injuries. Horses can’t talk, and because of that fact, they can’t tell us where the problems are in their bodies. On top of that, each animal shows the same problem in a different manner, or that there are more than one problem to contend with, so finding them and solving them is no easy task.

The years spent working with these animals helped me understand that life is never black and white, but that things have many shades and therefore very rarely are things the way they appear to be on the surface. Many lessons in the development of my living philosophy came from those years spent on the farm. The ability to understand the puzzle of life started with the ability to work with these animals and come to understand them. Mr. Denis Larochelle was very instrumental in my development as a human being.

Next month, some stories from the good old days.

More News

The proposals to change the point at which a violation occurs for each of these drugs if found in a Standardbred horse post race will be reviewed by the RCI Scientific Advisory Group, the RCI Standardbred Committee, the Drug Testing Standards and Practices Committee, the Model Rules Committee, and ultimately the entire membership at the April meeting.

Representatives from the USTA as well as Mr. Faraldo have been invited to attend and have been included on the various agendas to afford them the opportunity to make the case for the proposed policy changes, which would represent breed specific rules for Standardbred races.
In the past the ARCI has adopted more stringent breed specific policies for quarter horse races where clenbuterol and albuterol are both considered prohibited at any level. The USTA is requesting a more lenient approach for clenbuterol and betamethasone than what currently exists in the Model Rules.

“The regulators are very interested in hearing what they have to say, including why this policy change is necessary and in the best interest of the horse as well as ensuring the integrity of the race,” said RCI President Ed Martin.

“I think it important to note that Standardbred races in Indiana, New Jersey, California, Kentucky, Minnesota, Maryland, and Florida occur consistent with the current Model Rules while other jurisdictions have made exceptions, which is their right. In those jurisdictions that have adopted the Model Rules or are required by statute or rule to implement the Model Rules, compliance has not posed a problem to those who race. That being said, we continually strive to consider any and all information in assessing the appropriateness and applicability of the standards we embody in the Model Rules and are never adverse to modifying a standard if the facts warrant it.”
Louisiana Owner Ruled Ineligible For License After Alleged Anti-Slaughter Policy Violations

Stewards in Louisiana have issued a ruling against unlicensed owner Andre J. Colson, making him temporarily ineligible for licensure in the state after they received a complaint Colson was involved with transporting horses from Louisiana tracks into the slaughter pipeline.

Colson, 56, of New Orleans, was not present at a hearing held in early February, where stewards heard evidence provided by a third party. His ineligibility will hold until he appears before the Board of Stewards to address the allegations.

“It was the opinion of the stewards that out of an abundance of caution, the ruling should be written to prevent Mr. Colson from getting a license until such time as he appears,” said Louisiana Racing Commission Executive Director Charles Gardiner.

Equibase records show Colson has not raced a horse in his name since late 2017.
The stewards' ruling bans Colson from Louisiana tracks, recognized training centers, and off-track wagering facilities. by Paulick Staff 

Fair Grounds Race Track has also banned Colson under Churchill Downs Inc.'s anti-slaughter policy, according to CDI Executive Director of Racing Mike Ziegler. Other CDI tracks have not yet taken action against him, Ziegler said, primarily because they have not yet opened for the season.

According to the complaint, Colson was allegedly involved in moving horses from the track to a livestock sales company frequented by slaughter buyers.
Indiana Bill Would Authorize ‘Biological Sample’ Testing​​
by T. D. Thornton

Commission-conducted equine drug testing in Indiana will no longer be limited to blood or urine samples as of July 1 if a bill currently working its way through the state legislature becomes law.

According to the text of HB 1196, the Indiana Horse Racing Commission (IHRC) will be authorized to access “biological samples” that will now include “any fluid, tissue, or other substance obtained from a horse through an internal or external means to test for foreign substances, natural substances at abnormal levels, and prohibited medications. The term includes blood, urine, saliva, hair, muscle tissue collected at necropsy, semen, and other substances appropriate for testing as determined by the commission.”

The bill contains several other commission-level changes, including a mandate that the IHRC adopt rules that better protect the confidentiality of personal information on license applications, such as an applicant’s such as date of birth and home address.
The bill passed a third reading in the House of Representatives Feb. 5 by a 94-0 margin and has been referred to the Senate.
USTA proposed drug changes to be vetted at ARCI meeting
from the Association of Racing Commissioners International

Saratoga Springs, NY — Proposals to modify the regulatory policy concerning clenbuterol and betamethasone use in Standardbred racing will be one of the major topics considered at the upcoming meeting of the Association of Racing Commissioners International on April 3-5 in Arcadia, Calif.

The proposed changes were submitted late last year to Standardbred regulatory commissions directly from the Harness Racing Medication Collaborative, a subcommittee of the United States Trotting Association, chaired by Joe Faraldo of New York. Several commissions have deferred action on the proposed change pending a recommendation from the ARCI, the umbrella group of the racing regulatory authorities throughout North America and parts of the Caribbean.

The ARCI racing regulatory standards are embodied in its Model Rules of Racing, which form the foundation for the regulation of horse and greyhound racing in North America and, in some cases, beyond.
Several ARCI committees will consider the proposal, which would liberalize the current policy for these two drugs if adopted. The current policy was adopted by the ARCI upon recommendations that had come from the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium several years ago.
Meadowlands purse increases will begin in March
Meadowlands Media Relations

East Rutherford, NJ — As a result of New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signing Senate Bill 2992 (containing the horse racing purse allocation) into law yesterday, The Meadowlands will raise overnight purses by $40,000 per card beginning the first weekend in March, then institute another $40,000 nightly increase the first weekend of April.

While it is a great help to be able to offer purses competitive with other tracks in the region, it is vitally important that horsemen support The Meadowlands with their entries as we must demonstrate improvement in the product to New Jersey legislators. The continuation of the purse allocation is contingent on their satisfaction that these monies are being well allocated to the horse racing industry in the Garden State.

Books available on Amazon 
By Authors Victoria M. Howard, Bob Marks, Billy Haughton & Freddie Hudson 

The foregoing content of articles is solely the opinion and facts of the author, not that of the U.S. Harness Racing Alumni Association. We reserve the right to clarify wording and/or edit any articles without modifying context prior to publication.